Let me introduce you to Max and Samantha. You may know a family like them. They have two children, Ryan age 12 and Grace age 7. They are your typical family – busy with school and various activities. Ryan plays in the school band and on the baseball team while Grace has been involved in gymnastics and dance.
Samantha works as a part-time librarian at a nearby elementary school and has recently become involved with triathlons. She’s made some friends who have kids the same age as hers and they’ve been able to hang out together. She also volunteers for community functions through their local fire department where her Dad served as Chief while she was growing up.
Max works for a software development firm and serves with five others on a team that deals with market research, product development, testing, and maintenance. Since he works very closely with his teammates they often end up getting together after work to debrief and inevitably share other aspects of their lives.
They have lived in their neighborhood for 10 years now and there are some other children Ryan and Grace’s age, so they have been able to connect with a few families on a regular basis.
Things Began to Change
Max and Samantha weren’t involved in any church but when the kids started to get older they felt as though they should try and get connected with one. After visiting a few churches in their area they really felt connected to the people at New Life. They were able to develop great relationships and really felt that they belonged. They were invited to join a small group and as they began to explore the promises of God and spent time in the scriptures with others, God drew them close and they began to thrive in a personal relationship with Jesus. Things really began to change.
The more they grew closer to Christ, the more they were connecting and serving with their community of faith. Max took over the website for the church and Samantha served on the Christian Education Committee. They attended their church’s healing prayer service the last Sunday of every month. Max helped co-lead a weekly class at the church and Samantha joined a team that would go to the elementary school once a week and tutor students. But the more they were connected with their community of faith, the more they became disconnected from those they lived among.
Max stopped hanging out with his co-workers because he just didn’t have the time. Samantha cut down on her triathlon training and had much less time to serve at the fire hall or hang out with neighbors. Their family grew in their faith and grew disconnected from their community.
This is one of the greatest challenges for the Church today. Max and Samantha are like many in our churches. They are deeply connected with people outside the church walls and by virtue of their shared lives, they have the opportunity to speak into the lives of friends in a way “the church” never could. Yet once they got connected to a community of faith they became inwardly focused, spending most of their time with people that already know Jesus.
This creates a tension that we must manage. On the one hand, people need to be part of the church. We need to be in community together, growing and serving. But on the other hand, if we spend so much time in the church, we aren’t able to leverage the relationships that give us access and opportunity to consistently share new life through Jesus with others.
In order to invest in people…the people that don’t know Jesus…well, that means we need to be with them. We need to be intentional about hanging out with them and getting to know them.
This tension is not a problem to be solved, but rather something to manage. Use the following questions to stimulate your thinking as you consider the core practice of Investing in People.
Who are you investing in today? How do you manage the tension of being in community with other followers of Jesus and maintaining valuable relationships with those who don’t know Him yet? How do you model and teach new believers to stay connected in their spheres of influence while staying rooted in their community of faith?
These are questions we must constantly wrestle with as we thrive in our relationship with Jesus and share new life with others! Don’t shy away from the tension. Face it head on, listening for God and watching for the movement of the Spirit.